“A Monopolist Asserting Dominance”: The U.S. Criticizes Google’s Strategies as Antitrust Trial Commences

A Monopolist Asserting Dominance - The U.S. Criticizes Google's Strategies

In the opening statements of the government’s inaugural monopoly trial in the modern internet era, Google defended itself by arguing that consumers have numerous choices for online search. The trial, which could have far-reaching implications for the tech industry, commenced with the Justice Department and 38 states and territories accusing Google of using its dominance in online search to stifle competition. Google countered these allegations, asserting that it simply offered a superior product and highlighting the diversity of online information sources beyond its general search engine, such as Amazon, TikTok, and Expedia.

The trial, known as U.S. et al. v. Google, unfolded in a crowded courtroom in Washington, D.C., where the government and Google presented their arguments. Over the next ten weeks, both sides will present their cases and question numerous witnesses to explore how Google attained its dominant position and whether it violated antitrust laws to maintain and expand its dominance. The trial’s outcome, determined by Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, could have significant consequences for the tech industry and its ongoing race in artificial intelligence.

A victory for the government could result in limits on Google’s business practices and send a strong message to other tech giants. Conversely, a win for Google could call into question the effectiveness of government regulators and embolden Silicon Valley further.

This case is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration and various states to rein in major tech companies. It also follows a separate lawsuit by the Justice Department against Google over its advertising technology, while the Federal Trade Commission pursues an antitrust lawsuit against Meta (formerly Facebook). Investigations remain open with the potential for antitrust lawsuits against Amazon and Apple.

The core of the case revolves around Google’s agreements with browser developers, smartphone manufacturers, and wireless carriers, allowing Google to be the default search engine on their products. The trial has already involved the submission of millions of documents and the deposition of over 150 witnesses. Judge Mehta has narrowed the trial’s scope while allowing the central claims of monopoly abuse in search to proceed.

In the trial’s opening statements, the government focused on Google’s agreements with Apple and others, describing how Google made it a condition for revenue sharing that it remained the default search engine on Apple devices. The government also alleged that Google attempted to conceal documents from antitrust enforcers by involving lawyers in conversations and marking them as privileged.

Google’s defense argued that its default agreements with browser makers did not result in market lock-in, as browser manufacturers like Apple and Mozilla promoted other search engines, and users could easily change their default search engine. They also disputed the extent of Google’s dominance, contending that it faced competition from a broader array of online services.

The trial continued with the government calling Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, as its first witness, aiming to establish that Google was aware of its search dominance and tried to evade antitrust scrutiny. Varian’s testimony is set to continue in the coming days.